Consistent and timely program evaluation is critical to making informed decisions based on analysis of how U.S. foreign policy can best be carried out around the globe. Since FY 2002, the Department has focused on increasing the level and quality of its performance planning at the bureau and embassy levels and institutionalizing regular evaluation within the Department's organizational culture. In the timeframe of this joint Strategic Plan, the Department will reinforce this planning culture and further develop and evaluate timely, useful, and reliable performance information that assists senior leaders to make policy and resource decisions. The Department used evaluation information from the processes identified below in preparing this joint Strategic Plan.
Evaluation Tools and Methods
The Department will continue to evaluate performance and ensure return on investment using a variety of tools and methods:
- Mission Strategic Plans (MSPs) and Annual Reviews: Each mission, which includes the Department of State and other U.S. Government agencies located in the country, develops an annual strategic plan that outlines the intended goals, priority initiatives, and performance indicators with targets for the country team. The Assistant Secretary for Resource Management and regional bureau senior leadership hold detailed reviews annually with approximately 30 percent of missions to evaluate recent progress and program changes, including resource and personnel requests. These reviews result in detailed messages to posts outlining results of the review.
- Country Operational Plans and Annual Reviews: Each country that receives foreign assistance funds will develop and submit a Country Operational Plan under the leadership of the Ambassador to ensure that all foreign assistance resources are coordinated, appropriately linked to foreign policy objectives, and supportive of an integrated country strategy. They will provide a comprehensive, interagency picture of all foreign assistance resources planned for implementation in country; will strengthen the link between funding, activities, and results; and will collect standardized data about foreign assistance programs. Country Operational Plans are reviewed annually by Core Teams in Washington and approved by the Director of U.S. Foreign Assistance.
- Bureau Strategic Plans (BSPs) and Senior Reviews: The Department also requires each bureau to develop an annual strategic plan that identifies a specific business plan for success, including budget and human resource requests related to specific goals and priorities. The Bureau of Resource Management evaluates each BSP and provides specific recommendations to improve the BSPs. In addition to these BSP evaluations, the Secretary of State holds comprehensive annual reviews with regional bureau Assistant Secretaries on progress in reaching stated goals and targets, and reviews major priorities for the coming fiscal year in order to make informed resource decisions.
- Department Performance Plan (DPP): The Department's annual Performance Plan describes how the Department will define success, measure progress, and verify results in the next fiscal year. The DPP is forward-looking and sets the indicators and targets that will be reported on in the Performance and Accountability Report (PAR). The Department conducts an annual review and analysis of its performance measures and provides feedback to bureau program managers through consultations, training, and workshops. The DPP is an integral part of the President's budget request and meets the requirements of the Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA).
- Performance and Accountability Report: The Department's PAR—submitted annually shortly after the close of each fiscal year—provides program results and financial information to help Congress, the President, and the public assess the Department's performance relative to its mission and stewardship of financial resources. The PAR also provides readers a sense of the U.S. Government's highest priorities in the conduct of U.S. foreign policy, and the Department's strengths and challenges in implementing programs that pursue the President's foreign policy agenda.
- Program Assessment Rating Tool (PART): PART was developed by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) as an instrument to help Congress, federal managers, and the public assess program performance and drive improvements. To evaluate the effectiveness and efficiency of programs, the Department has fully integrated and institutionalized the PART into budget and planning processes. PART requires bureaus to demonstrate that programs are well-designed, effectively managed, and results oriented. PART efficiency measures enable program managers to monitor the administrative cost of achieving a given outcome and evaluate how program outcomes might change based on adjustments to funding levels. These issues are critical to program success and are incorporated in our internal mission and bureau-level reviews. PART ratings and findings are available for public view on OMB's Web site, Expectmore.gov.
Office of Inspector General (OIG) and Government Accountability Office (GAO) Evaluations: OIG and GAO are two independent bodies that also drive evaluation within the Department. OIG is required by law to inspect and evaluate all Department diplomatic missions and domestic bureaus. Each year, OIG inspects approximately 35 to 50 overseas missions and domestic bureaus. In addition, OIG audits and evaluates 20 to 30 Department programs and operations, including mandated annual audits of the Department's financial statements, protection of classified information, and implementation of the Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA). OIG also conducts reviews of specific programs, grants, and contracts at the request of the Department. These reviews and evaluations provide the Department an objective assessment of program performance and recommend specific actions to be taken in meeting the challenges ahead. GAO initiates an average of seven new program reviews involving the Department per month, covering a range of issues such as rightsizing, embassy construction, information systems, recruiting, nonproliferation, and trade agreements.
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